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Attract kids to healthy foods by attractive presentation


All the food on these girls’ trays is made from scratch by the Midway school cooks: spinach lasagna, the roll, raw veggies, even the salad dressing and croutons. (Photo, Kate Long)


Sand Fork kindergartners enjoying their daily afternoon snack from the federal fruit and vegetable program. Teachers say the snacks cause students to seek out the same fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria. (Photo, Kate Long)

Kids started eating more at lunch after Lincoln County’s Midway School switched to brightly-colored trays, principal Cheryl Workman observed. “People don’t realize, but many kids choose their food by the way it looks,” she said. “We go to a lot of effort to cook nutritious food from scratch, so we do whatever we can to make it look attractive.”

The same thing goes for the salad bar, she said. “We try to have bright-colored foods mixed in with the whites and greens.”

Her experience matches Cornell University research. Cornell researchers found that the amount of fruit children chose at meals went up 100 percent when it was put in a brightly-colored bowl. Salad bar sales tripled when the salad bar cart was placed in front of the cash register.


Gilmer County High School cooks package fresh veggies and fruit in convenient grab-and-go form. “The kids started eating a lot more fruit and vegetables after we did that,” one cook said. (Photo, Kate Long)

“Whatever they can easily see, they get more of,” Workman said.

Similar studies found that sales of healthy sandwiches doubled when students who bought them could go through a speedy “healthy express” line. When cafeteria workers asked students, “Do you want a salad?” sales went up a third.

Gilmer County High School cooks say that matches their experience. GCHS has one of West Virginia’s highest percentages of students who eat school lunch: more than 70 percent. GCHS cooks package the food to make it appeal to students. For instance, they put raw vegetables in little grab and go bags, to make it convenient for students in a hurry. (See photo at right.)


Here’s research that says kids eat significantly more when food is attractively served.



These Gilmer County High School students almost wiped out the salad bar in 45 minutes. (photo, Kate Long)

Want to pack attractive school lunches at home?


Also see these related Try This pages:

See the “Make sure kids get healthy foods” listings in the Try This index.



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